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A good night’s sleep

Are you getting a good night’s sleep?A man fast asleep in bed

Disturbed sleep is a key complaint of people experiencing both acute and chronic pain. These two vital functions – sleep and pain – interact in a complex way that ultimately impacts the biological and behavioural capacity of us all.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, pain, stress and poor health are key factors for shorter sleep durations and worse sleep quality, and a growing body of evidence suggests that poor night time sleep is associated with increased pain.

Healthy sleep habits can make a big difference to your quality of life. It plays such an integral role to how we function and here at Central Health Physiotherapy we see it as a vital part of your treatment and recovery.

The following tips can help to ensure a good night’s sleep, as well as contribute towards stress management and enhance your overall well-being:

  1. Sleep schedule – Keep to the same schedule of bed time and wake up time, even at the weekends. This helps to regulate your circadian rhythm (your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle). Increase light exposure in the mornings (particularly sunlight), and throughout the day by spending more time outside and letting in natural light to your home or workplace. In the evenings, use lamps or lower-wattage lighting in the bedroom. The amount of sleep required varies from person to person but for an adult it is around 7-9 hours. Consistency is very important and if you want to change your bed or waking time ensure it is done gradually in 15 minutes increments each day.
  2. Winding down A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress or anxiety which can make it more difficult to fall asleep. Having a hot bath, reading a book or magazine, listening to music, deep abdominal breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or visualising a peaceful restful places are all great ideas. Using electronic devices such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the light from the screen is activating to the brain. Turn off televisions and avoid using electronics such as phones/tablets before bed for the same reason.
  3.  Avoid nappingIf you have trouble sleeping, avoid naps, especially in the afternoon.  Short naps may help you get through the day, but you should limit these to 30 minutes maximum.
  4. Daily Exercise As little as 20-30 minutes per day is all that is required. Some people find vigorous exercising late in the evening too stimulating as it increases your body temperature, and on the contrary your body temperature lowers when you sleep. Other exercise forms such as Yoga, Pilates or gentle stretching can help to promote sleep.
  5. Sleeping EnvironmentYour bedroom should be cool and free from any noise. It should be free from any light and your mattress/pillow comfortable. You should have space to turn and stretch, and if you wake up with aches/soreness in your back or neck – it might be time to try a different pillow or mattress.
  6. Avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, and evening heavy meals Alcohol reduces sleep quality, cigarettes contain nicotine which is a stimulant along with caffeine, and eating big or spicy meals can cause discomfort from indigestion that can make it hard to sleep. Too much of any liquid may result in frequent bathroom trips and also disturb sleep.
  7. If you can’t sleep – Go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. Use your bed only for sleep and sex to strengthen the association between bed and sleep. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.

If you would like more information, have a look at the National Sleep Foundation website.

Resources:

  1. The National Sleep Foundation
  2. Roehrs T,Roth T (2005) Sleep and pain: interaction of two vital functions. Semin Neurol.; 25(1):106-16.
  3. Vitiello MV.McCurry SM. Shortreed SM. Baker LD. Rybarczyk BD (2014) Short-term improvement in insomnia symptoms predicts long-term improvements in sleep, pain and fatigue in older adults with co morbid osteoarthritis and insomnia. Pain;155(8):1547-54.

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